Now that the holidays are over, the kids are back in school and everyone is making their way back to the office, colds and flus will begin to spike again. Very few people have the luxury of interrupting their daily routine even when they are running a fever. Fortunately there are preventative measures we can take to help avoid catching a flu or cold bug altogether.
1) Hand washing
The CDC reports that hand washing is the most important preventative step to disease transmission. Every time you use a bathroom, wash your hands with soapy water for 15 seconds. Do not touch the faucet or paper towel dispenser knob. After drying your hands, throw the paper towel into the trash. Some people carry their own antiseptic towelettes in their bags, which would further reduce transmission.
80% of germs are spread through direct contact with another person. Try to avoid touching surfaces, your face and other people. No handshaking, kissing or hugging. When touching a doorknob that has been infected by someone else, then touching your face will put you in direct contact with the germs. Of course it’s not possible to avoid contact altogether, but by using disinfectant wipes and washing your hands, it will certainly reduce your chances of getting ill.
3) Reduce stress
Stress affects your immune system by raising cortisol levels, thereby making you more vulnerable to any incoming germs. January is a high stress month as people get back into their routines. Find ways to reduce stress that work best for you and your family, be it exercise, play, downtime, or meditation. Even getting up from your work desk and doing stretches while doing breathing exercises can be helpful.
4) Stay hydrated
The old adage of drinking eight glasses of water a day is true under normal circumstances, but during cold and flu season it should be mandatory. Flavored water and hot teas are also good. Keeping 8-ounce containers of water in your car, workplace, children’s backpack, and around the house may be useful. Be sure everyone has their own thermos and they are cleaned regularly.
5) Eat nutrient rich foods
After indulging in high caloric and sugary foods over the holiday season, now is the time to scale back and focus on immune building foods. High on the list are Omega-3 filled fish, low-fat yogurts, nuts and seeds, colorful fruits and vegetables, lean protein meats such as chicken and fish, and plenty of beans and onions.
A great way to remember the most important of the antioxidants is ACE. Vitamin A, C and E. A can be found in eggs, vegetables and leafy greens, C in fresh fruits and vegetables, E in nuts, seeds, greens, tomatoes and peanut butter. A daily vitamin can also be a good supplement to your diet. Be sure to find one that includes antioxidants and minerals.
Zinc is one of the most important minerals to keep handy as it empowers the immune system and helps shorten the duration of a cold or flu once it sets in. Zinc is found in protein rich foods, such as red meat and nuts. Zinc lozenges are also available and a handy item to keep close by. Though the verdict is still out on zinc and many doctors don’t believe it helps, in small doses it cannot hurt. And in many cases it’s proven to be beneficial.
It’s a known fact that people who regularly exercise are less likely to become sick.
Exercise builds the immune system while helping your body fight infection. Daily walks, a twice weekly visit to the gym, or doing a workout with a DVD are all effective ways to keep moving despite the cold weather. Exercise also helps you sleep better.
Sleep deprivation causes the immune system to weaken, not to mention it can also make people irritable, which might raise stress levels. Sleep is one of the best ways for your body to replenish cells, keep your body strong, thus more defensive against disease.
Develop a nightly sleep routine that works best for you. Some ideas are not eating late or drinking alcohol as it can interrupt sleep, turn off all distractions such as TVs, computers and phones, and keep your bedroom at a comfortable cool temperature.
The CDC has reported that it has produced the most doses this year than any other. Vaccinations are recommended for children under 5, people over 50 and pregnant women. This is a personal choice but doctors highly recommend as a vaccination can often stop a cold or flu from turning into something worse. They are available from your doctor and at most drug stores.
Happy New Year!